If the Bills trades of Ronald Darby and Sammie Watkins the Bills are clearly using the 2017 season as a rebuild as they find pieces to find to fit their schemes. The biggest part is getting the defense to fit head coach Sean McDermott’s defense. With all of this news it means that the Bills fans should be looking to the college football season to find specific prospects that fit what Buffalo wants to do.
Today we are going to focus on the linebackers. In Carolina the Panthers defense was build behind athletic run and chase linebackers that were the star of the defense. Playing behind a big front four these linebackers were smaller in stature and able to run and chase freely. While the next Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis is likely to never happen, the Panthers lack the linebackers on their current roster that fit what they want to do. Even so that former second round pick Reggie Ragland is running with the third unit.
Here is a look at some linebackers to keep an eye on that could fit well in McDermott’s scheme
Josey Jewell 6’2 230, Iowa
One of the best traits of Luke Kuechly is his instincts that always has him around the ball and when you watch Jewell play it’s the first thing that stands out. Jewell’s ability to quickly change direction and accelerate has allowed him to be a force in the middle of the Hawkeyes defense. The one thing that really causes Jewell to not be an elite linbacker prospect is his lack of top end speed. There are times where he gets out ran to the edge and isn’t able to run with receivers down the field.
Rashaan Evans 6’3 234, Alabama
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) August 1, 2017
In Alabama’s defense Evans was used as both a stacked linebacker and a standing rusher off the edge but regardless of where he lined up he used his explosive speed and power to disrupt plays. Evans is at his best reading and reacting then flying to the ball. The biggest concern about Evans is if he can play in coverage. He shows the tools to do so, but has struggled at times as a junior and will be sometime to look for during his senior year. That being said Evans could see some action as a strongside linebacker early in his career getting use to playing in the defense, but he has all the physical tools to play inside in this defense and be a dominant middle linebacker. And it doesn’t hurt he can rush the passer.
Jerome Baker 6’1 225, Ohio State
While in college Thomas Davis was a safety at Georgia before moving to linebacker with the Panthers. Small in stature Davis thrived with his athletic ability. Looking for his version of Davis it could lead the Bills to be looking at Baker. Baker looks like a safety playing linebacker for the Buckeyes often playing in space on the wide side of the field. Baker is still raw as a linebacker but is a fluid athlete who flys around the field making plays.